Years before television viewing audiences found themselves frantically tuning in on a weekly basis to see what outrageous antics were being developed – and shown – on such groundbreaking shows as NYPD Blue and The Sopranos, ABC tried out a primetime drama that theoretically could have very well proved inspirational for those future, much more popular programs that people still remember today. In fact, there’s a moment in the beginning of Our Family Honor that features starlet Daphne Ashbrook removing her shirt to expose her bare back, followed by what I could only describe as a side-of-a-side-of-a-side-of-a-sideboob shot. While this would be nothing out of the ordinary on even Nickelodeon today, seeing that much skin on ABC in 1985 may have been only a little bit on the risqué side of things. I can only imagine this one was aired later in the evening.
Exposed back action aside, kids, Our Family Honor held a number of other now-all-too-familiar elements in its story. The story centers on two families in then-modern New York City. The McKay family – led by Patrick (Kenneth McMillan and his eyebrows) – represent the law, and consist of people who are both good and bad such as his good granddaughter Liz (the aforementioned Ms. Ashbrook), who has just joined the police force as the series begins, and the very toughened and occasionally very bad – though in the name of justice, mind you – Frank (Tom Mason – no, not Bela Lugosi’s stand-in from Plan 9 from Outer Space). Patrick also has a lawyer in the family (James O’Sullivan), whom everyone save for Liz has a certain sort of “Eehhh…” attitude towards on account of his decision to not be a cop.
On the much nicer side of the tracks is the home of the Danzig Family, led by Vincent (no, not Glenn), as played here by the late great Eli Wallach. Vincent has a great deal of stress to accompany him here, as not only is he at a loss for an explanation for living up to so many Italian mafia stereotypes whilst not bearing an actual Italian name (or even accent), but his one-time-pal-turned-nemesis Patrick McKay is up for the position of police commissioner – which could makes things very bad for business. Augie (a young Michael Madsen) – his oldest son from a previous marriage – has high hopes of pulling the right strings to make his old man proud, such as hiring a hitman (played by a young Ron Perlman with an afro!) to whack Frank McKay’s longtime pal/partner (Gregg Henry). Ultimately, however, Augie lacks the right kind of brainstuff to be in charge.
Meanwhile, Danzig’s younger son Jerry (Michael Woods) – beget from a second marriage – wants nothing to do with the family business. This is due in part to his own dislike for the operation, but also because his mother never wanted her own offspring to wander down such a dark path. In fact, you might say that someone told his mother to tell her children not to walk that way. (Yes, I went there.) Unbeknownst to all, Jerry Cole (as he now goes by) is currently seeing a hot young police cadet named Liz McKay – something that will surely have made waves in both families as the series progresses. Well, perhaps the proper wordage there would be “could have made waves” – as sadly, the longevity gene both NYPD Blue and The Sopranos held apparently skipped over Our Family Honor, choosing instead to stick with its unofficial progenitures.
Thus, the 1985 series never made it past its own first season. And the fact that this offering from the Warner Archive Collection presents us with just the two-hour pilot episode and nothing more makes the final outcome all the more curious. Hopefully, the remainder of the series is on the horizon, as this rather enjoyable and well-acted slice of ’80s TV mob/cop drama – which gets a nice transfer in a barebones release – left me wanting just a little bit more. Partly due to the casting of a pre-Goodfellas fame Ray Liotta – who is also onboard the series as Ashbrook’s partner – but mostly due to the fact that those more-popular shows NYPD Blue and The Sopranos were way overrated back in the day. And I always like to root for the underdog.
Time will tell, I guess.